Theatre Review: The Fastest Clock in the Universe – feeling sorry wasn’t enough

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I suppose one might be forgiven in thinking that Point B’s production of The Fastest Clock in the Universe has more to do with Stephen Hawking than an exploration of human cruelty amidst our obsession with age and beauty.  But with lines like “fuck the milk of human kindness and welcome to the abattoir”, it doesn’t take long before we realize that Philip Ridley’s play is about to take on a whole different meaning to a brief history of time.

The Fastest Clock in the UniverseCougar Glass (Corey Payette pictured right) is turning 19.  Again.  Helping with the annual birthday party preparations is Cougar’s faithful companion, Captain Tock (Colin Legge).  As with Glass’ previous 19th birthday parties, there is only a single present on his list: a teenage boy.  This year it is Foxtrot Darling (Vaughn Jones) that Glass tricks into attending the party as its only guest, intent on seducing him and, much like that shiny new toy that gets a single use before being abandoned, ultimately discard.  Complicit in the ruse is Captain who in his own desperation sees this as his only way to keep Cougar with him the other 364 days of the year.  This year, however, Glass’ conquest appears with an uninvited guest in tow, his pregnant fiancée, Sherbet Gravel (Helen Wrack-Adams).  Sherbet knows the truth and much like the various party favours she pulls out of her purse, she slowly reveals those truths.

Playwright Ridley crams a lot into his nearly two hour play, layering much onto Glass’ story, with each layer designed to add to the levels of darkness that consume his characters.  Each of these layers on their own is enough to make your skin crawl; together they are designed to be downright vile.  Unfortunately this particular production never quite becomes the sum of its parts, leaving us just shy of the play’s most base level.  We should feel the build to what should be the shocking and bloody conclusion, but instead it felt more of the same.

Most successful here is Colin Legge as Captain Tock, the man who would do anything for Cougar, with a combination of fear, sorrow and love.  Where Payette simply sat with no expression through most of play, no doubt to show the levels to which he would go to prevent wrinkles from appearing on his face, I never got the sense of the coiled animal that should lie beneath even when he literally snaps at a touch.  Jones’s naivety saw no bounds in his portrayal of Foxtrot but with Wrack-Adams’ sometimes over-the-top Sherbet, it was a nice contrast.

Lindsay Wiens gives us a nice set representing the small flat above the factory, effectively mirroring the decay that surrounds the characters and Jeffrey McAlpine’s lighting is mood setting with just enough shadows in keeping with the darkness of the story.

In the end though, I walked away feeling sorry for these despicable characters, when I should have been reviling them.

3 Out of 5 Stars The Fastest Clock in the Universe
PAL Theatre
19 & 20, 24-28 November and 1-4 December 2010

Tickets are available at Tickets Tonight or by calling 604.684.2787

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